This Thursday, Israel released the bodies of 91 Palestinian terrorists to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a 'goodwill gesture' to President Mahmoud Abbas. However, Abbas' decision to honor these murderers shows that Palestinian glorification of terror remains the key obstacle to peace with Israel.
Included amongst the bodies turned over to the PA are suicide bombers responsible for some of the most gruesome acts of terror over the past decade, killing hundreds of innocent Israelis and many foreign citizens, including American.
They include Ramez Aslim, the suicide bomber who in 2003, blew up the crowded Cafe Hillel in central Jerusalem, murdering 7 people and injuring over 50. Amongst the dead were Dr. David Applebaum, a world renowned doctor and head of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and his daughter, Nava, aged 20, who was to have been married the next day. They were both dual Israeli and American citizens.
Also released is Raed Abdel-Hamed Misk, the Hamas suicide bomber who carried out an attack on Israel's No.2 bus in Jerusalem in 2003, killing 23 and injuring over 130. The dead included seven children and Goldie Taubenfeld, 42, of New York, and her 3-month old infant son Shmuel. Most of the passengers were religious Jews returning from prayers at the Western Wall.
At the time of the No.2 bus attack, Abbas said: "I announce my strong condemnation of this horrible act." Today, President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership attended a reception ceremony honoring Misk and 90 other cold-blooded killers like him. Abbas even laid wreaths on their coffins, which were draped in Palestinian flags, at his headquarters in Ramallah.
The most disturbing aspect, though, of this transfer is that the official PA news agency, WAFA, described the Palestinians being released as having been "killed in action."
These three sickening words -- 'killed in action' -- singularly convey that as long as Palestinians glorify terrorism, incite hatred and reward the murder of Israelis, peace will remain unattainable.
Abbas never wastes an opportunity to tell the world he is a 'partners for peace,' while the media blindly continues to label the PA as 'moderates.' But what so-called 'partner for peace' refers to the barbaric murder of children as being "killed in action"?
Equally disturbing is the fact that the honoring of this latest batch of terrorists is only one of many recent examples of official PA glorification of terror and violence -- including from Abbas himself.
In October last year, Abbas honored the 1,027 terrorists Israel released in exchange for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit by saying to them: "You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland." He then rewarded each one with a financial grant.
According to the respected Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors PA incitement and anti-Semitism, only two weeks ago on the anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel, an op-ed published in the official PA daily reiterated the PA's denial of Israel's right to exist and its hope and expectation for Israel's destruction.
Meanwhile in March this year, at an event attended by three PA ministers, Abbas' Minister of Social Affairs, Majida Al-Masri, stated a unity deal with Hamas was needed in order to focus Palestinian efforts on the destruction of Israel, calling on Palestinians "to turn to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine -- all of Palestine."
Sadly, one need not look too wide, or far back, for more such examples. In the past 12 months alone, the PA has continued to pay the salaries of some 5,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails (most of whom are terrorists), aired television programs teaching kids how to make model maps turning all of Israel into 'Palestine', while naming public squares and sponsoring kids' summer camps in honor of infamous terrorists.
In 2010, President Obama called on Abbas to "do everything he can to prevent acts of incitement or delegitimization of Israel." Abbas however, has no intentions of stopping this. To the contrary, he has only ramped up his efforts.
In the meantime, the U.S. government continues to pour money to the PA ($3 billion in the last five years alone) with very little to show in return -- except more terror and corruption. Moreover, it is doing so in direct breach of U.S. law, which explicitly requires the Secretary of State to certify that funds will not be used for the purposes of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism. One would have to ask whether the release of the bodies was the direct result of U.S. pressure on Israel in the first instance.
Today's transfer comes on the same day as 21 teenagers were killed and 120 were wounded when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Dolphinarium disco, on Tel Aviv beach, in 2001. Incidents like this do not occur in a vacuum. Such acts of pitiless slaughter are the direct result of a pervasive infrastructure indoctrinating hate, inciting violence and instilling a world view justifying such gruesome acts. It is also in clear violation of the Oslo Accords, the Roadmap for Peace and U.S law.
Only when the Palestinian leadership unequivocally renounces terrorism and roots out and condemns all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people, can there be hope for real peace.
As the PA continues to insist that the world recognize a Palestinian state, one must ask exactly what type of state it wants. One that teaches the virtues of peace, or glorifies terrorism?